As expected, Multiplex shareholders voted
with their wallets and sold their shares at the rate of more than a
million a minute in the first hour of trading this morning. At one
stage the company’s shares had plunged 99c to a low of $2.27 from the
previous close of $3.26, before recovering to $2.48 by 11am, still down
78c, with more than 71 million shares sold. That’s more than 6% of the
company’s shares changing hands.

Of course there were buyers,
optimists according to some investors who have been burned by the
repeated problems Multiplex has reported with its projects, especially
the huge $1.2 billion Wembley Stadium in London. At $2.48, the company
has lost $443 million in value in the first hour of trading, or around
24%. For the Roberts family it was a stinging loss, its holding down
$170 million in value to $533 million. The losses of $109 million in
the Wembley Stadium contract are still not believable, with suggestions
this morning from CEO Andrew Roberts that the completion date is
“flexible” – between January and March next year, with hints being
thrown around of perhaps further delays.

The $65 million profit
warning will substantially reduce the company’s 2005 profit, but it
seems to have always been a moveable feast. Australia’s 12th richest
man, former chairman, John Roberts, is down $50 million after his
guarantee to underwrite the loss estimate on Wembley.

Roberts, who was worth more than $1.2 billion, would not underwrite any
more loses, must worry investors. That he remains a director, as does
his son and CEO, Andrew, should also worry investors. Construction
boss, Noel Henderson has gone, but that’s a token loss. The Roberts
family still controls 26% of the company’s shares, and still dominates
the company.